Though monsoons bring relief from the intense heat of the summer, this season witnesses a spurt in water-borne diseases. Contaminated water has the potential to harbour infectious germs that are invisible to the naked eyes and can cause a multitude of infections which may be life-threatening if not managed urgently. The commonly encountered water-borne diseases are cholera, acute gastroenteritis (caused by a number of viruses, bacteria and protozoa), dysentery, typhoid, salmonellosis and viral hepatitis (A and/or E ). Dr Mala Kaneria, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre talks about the following precautions:
Always drink boiled water, especially in the monsoons. If this is not possible, then consume filtered water (purifier or reverse osmosis).
Don’t trust bottled water as it can be tampered with, especially at railway stations and other unsafe places.
Ask for drinks without ice unless the ice is made from reliable bottled or boiled water. People should avoid eating popsicles and flavoured ice that may have been made with contaminated water.
The food can be as risky as the water in many places. Everyone should be suspicious of salads, uncooked fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized milk, raw meat, shellfish, and any foods that are sold by street vendors.
Raw fruits and vegetables should be avoided.
Cook your food well, especially the non-vegetarian food.
Avoid eating canned foods, especially after the expiry date.
Do not repeatedly thaw refrigerated food.
Avoid eating stale food. Keep food covered and protected from flies which are carriers of germs.
Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly under flowing water, especially the green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek leaves (methi), etc.
Avoid unpasteurized milk and products made from unpasteurized milk. Drink only pasteurized or boiled milk.
Family members who are suffering from salmonellosis should avoid cooking food at home (if possible).
Good hygiene should be practised such as frequent hand washing and disinfection of cutlery, cutting boards, etc.
After contact with pets or farm animals, or after having been to the toilet, wash hands thoroughly and frequently using soap.
Wash kitchen napkins separately as these are heavily contaminated with microorganisms like E. coli.
Avoid shaking hands with the people suffering from dysentery or diarrhoea. Use a hand sanitizer.
Avoid swimming while suffering from diarrhoea, or take a shower before and after swimming. Also, avoid gulping recreational water.
Dispose of off kitchen waste properly so that it does not accumulate and become a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria.
If you have symptoms of gastroenteritis such as vomiting and or diarrhoea, increase the intake of oral fluids with salts and sugar and if the symptoms are not self-limiting or there is evidence of dehydration, consult your physician.
Discuss the need for typhoid or hepatitis A vaccine with your physician.